This week’s blog post is in one of our favorite formats: the list! These lists are an effective way of learning about new apps or techniques that you might be missing out on but can help you save time or money (or both) by providing a service or some knowledge.
PowerToys: Text Extractor
We begin the list with another favorite of the Crown Computers Tech News Blog: PowerToys. The great thing about PowerToys is that it is a suite of very useful software extensions for Windows. They’re not exactly a part of Windows, but extend Windows’ functionality, and are treated like experimental features that you can turn on by installing PowerToys. Since they’re individual programs, though, they get feature updates, new additions, and their own update schedule, and deliver more cutting-edge productivity enhancers.
The Text Extractor has recently won over our CEO, Sean Goss, as one of the handiest tools in the whole suite. It’s similar to the Snipping Tool, and activating it looks nearly identical to taking a screenshot, but when you take this screenshot, Text Extractor uses optical character recognition (OCR) to put the text of what you captured on the clipboard. This means that you take the screenshot, and then paste the text from that screenshot anywhere that you need to input it. This is definitely the most efficient keyboard shortcuts way to get a lot of text from an image (or paused video). The default short cut is Win+Shift+T, which is easy to remember as a screenshot (Win+Shift+S), but for Text.
Be careful, though, to check that the results are accurate. If you consistently have bad results with the tool, consider zooming in on the text to give the algorithm a clearer view of the text.
G2.com can help you browse for and compare software and services for specific goals that you have. Its consistent layout is excellent if you’re tired of seeing the same cookie-cutter websites for software companies and their simulated animation and counterintuitive scrolling. It’s not exactly a marketplace: G2 just gives you the information you’re looking for, with plenty of moderated reviews and data about how the software is used (what industry it’s popular in, for example).
Since there’s so much out there that might be a good fit, seeing two products’ features and reviews side by side is the best way to know what solutions to pursue. A helpful feature here is the suggested comparisons: if you know one piece of software that you are interested in, G2 will suggest similar products to compare it to that you might not have heard of. G2 also prominently features the software’s price, even if it is buried on the provider’s website, so you know what kind of commitment you’re looking at or what kind of company the software is intended for.
Searching Facebook groups and Reddit
Finding relevant information for solving technical problems can sometimes be hard on today’s internet. Since the internet is, at its core, a place to promote things, searching for a problem can often lead you to products to buy instead of ways of figuring things out. If you’re lucky, a reputable company might have an educational blog post that explains what you need to know in a clear, straightforward manner.
But if you’re having a hard time finding someone discussing a problem and how to fix it, then two great resources to check are Facebook groups and Reddit posts. These outlets are less commercially oriented, and are often full of real people discussing how to overcome software and hardware problems. They offer more unfiltered contributions than you would see in reviews on a manufacturer’s review section (for instance).
A specific problem that I recently had with a database program, to take one example, is well discussed on Reddit, where people in the same industry congregate to discuss, promote, and complain about industry-standard software. Those conversations get me a more practical, real-world gauge of the problem than the company’s documentation can. It’s important to remember that people engage in these discussions more often when they are passionate about the issue, so these discussions tend to have more sarcasm and dismissal, as well as devotion and “fanboying,” than one would expect when talking among colleagues.
Google’s travel tools have made it very simple to plan a whole trip. Of course, that starts with their Flights tool, which was a big deal when they got into the travel-search game more than a decade ago. Like some of the other sites you might turn to for booking a whole trip, Google Flights searches all of the available flights to find the best price and show you a comparison of the details: flight time, stops, and even carbon emissions relative to the average trip.
You’ll notice in this example that by searching all flights, Google found me an option for a round-trip flight from San Diego to Paris that ends up being a thousand dollars cheaper for a family of three, and 14% more eco-friendly. Of course, the really impressive tools here are the Date grid and Price graph, which shows how prices change by moving the date of my flights, and how the price for the flight has changed over time. The killer feature here might be Track prices, which sends you an email alert for when the price for these tickets changes (hopefully for the better).
We’ve discussed Microsoft Stream at length before, but it’s worth noting again, since it’s not a very visible part of Microsoft 365. Stream is a video production platform specifically for SharePoint, OneDrive, and Teams. When you create videos with it, they’ll automatically be saved to your OneDrive, and can be shared on your SharePoint sites. This means that you can use it to effectively document anything you need in your organization.
One awesome use for Stream is making internal documentation, where you can document a procedure in real-time and make it available simply by sharing it in Teams chat. You can record just your screen or add yourself to the bottom. There’s a 15 minute time limit on videos, but if you’re using the platform to record a procedure, 15 minutes is a good mark to edit your work down to, since it will help your viewers focus and help you get to the point while recording.
-Written by Derek Jeppsen on Behalf of Sean Goss and Crown Computers Team